Born and raised in the Midwest, I have a special place in my heart for that increasingly obsolete conference known as the Big10. To be fair, no conference seems to have an answer for the SEC, but we in the Big10 are taking it harder than most, considering we’ve only won two national championships in the last forty-two years. Despite a lack in victories, the Big10 is starting to show promise again. A few of the historic programs have put winning coaches into place, and now we wait.

Let’s take a look at those coaches:

Legends Division
Iowa HawkeyesIowa: Kirk Ferentz
Kirk Ferentz earned his 100 victory as an Iowa Hawkeye last year. Since he began coaching the Hawkeyes in 1999, Ferentz has won two Big10 titles and six bowl games, including two BCS bowls. Ferentzs’ experience as an offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens is reflected in the nearly annual drafting of his offensive and defensive linemen to the NFL. Ferentz has certainly had a few down years since his last BCS bowl game, but with solid offensive and defensive lines, he is only a few skill players away from a Big10 title.
Michigan WolverinesMichigan: Brady Hoke
A true blue “Michigan Man” is back at the helm of UM. The Wolverines feel they are finally back on track when they beat MSU after four years of losses, and they now set their sights on “that university in Ohio.” Hoke has already posted two winning seasons and a BCS bowl victory under his belt. It may have been the Sugar Bowl, but who is keeping track? Hoke took a step back when he followed an eleven win season with an eight wins last year. Trending downwards is never a good sign, but I can’t imagine UM winning less than eight games this year so Hoke should be fine. His big challenge is to see if he can transition from a run option offense featuring the talents of Denard Robinson to the pro style offense we all know that he, Bo, and Lloyd would want him to run.
Michigan State SpartansMichigan State: Mark Dantnio
Mark Dantonio has seen some winning. He was at MSU for Nick Saban’s tour of duty. He coached at Ohio State under Tressel for their undefeated season and National Championship. He also lead MSU for a Division Title and their first conference title since 1990. Dantonio has already eclipsed Saban for victories, conference titles and bowl games at MSU, but has a long way to go before we can compare him in overall wins and National Championships. While he may never get there, Dantonio has already found local celebrity by turning a dismal Spartan program around. Dantonio has enjoyed a few years of relative ease with UM, OSU, and Penn State having down years, but things are about to become more difficult. Losing the majority of last year’s offense in the form of running back Le’Veon Bell, Dantonio has his work cut out for the year.
Minnesota GophersMinnesota: Jerry Kill
Jerry Kill has the best coach name in the Big10. Not for any particular cache or prestege, but who wouldn’t want a “Coach Kill” on the sideline? On top of that, Kill has more victories than any other coach in he Big10. Well over all victories, not Big10 conference victories. Kill did very well in smaller conferences, earning multiple division and conference championships. However, Kill just hasn’t done it at Minnesota yet. Health problems have plagued his tenure as a Gopher. Making a bowl last year is a good start, but if Kill can’t find a way to win in Minnesota, he’ll probably be searching for a new job in a smaller conference soon.
Nebraska CornhuskersNebraska: Bo Pelini
Relatively new to the Big10, Pelini has the unique experience of only head coaching for Nebraska. Pelini is doing well, considering he hasn’t had a season with more than four defeats. Also, Pelini always makes bowl games. The man is 49-20 as head coach. Pelini has won four conference division titles, but hasn’t won a conference title, much less a national championship. Pelini is a very good coach, given enough years, he will probably be a hall of fame coach. However, to become a great coach, Pelini is going to have to improve to the next level. I’m not sure he will, but Pelini will have every chance to prove himself with Urban Meyer as competition.
Northwestern WildcatsNorthwestern: Pat Fitzgerald
Who doesn’t love the heartwarming tale of a great football player coaching his alma mater to victory? Pat Fitzerald and the fans of Northwestern do, and their story could be a moderately entertaining football movie, probably staring Matthew Fox as Fitzgerald. Since taking over, the Wildcats have maintained their position as a middle-of-the-pack team with occasional flashes of brilliance. Specifically, Fitzgerald broke a nine bowl game losing streak by leading the Wildcats to the programs’ second bowl victory in the history of the team. Currently trending upward, it will be interesting to see if Fitzgerald can start competing with the likes of UM, Nebraska, and Ohio State.
Leaders Division
Illinois IlliniIllinois: Tim Beckman
Poor Tim Beckman. Another rising MAC coach who is getting his big break at a bad Big10 program. The previous coach was fired after winning the first six games of the season, and loses the final six, which was a NCAA D1 FBS first. Beckman was then handed the team and fell miserably flat with it. Beckman’s survived his first year after going 2-10. Beckman left Toledo after two seasons, each with eight wins. The second he won the MAC West division title. 2012 wasn’t just bad for Beckman, it was horrible. His two victories were against old MAC rival Western Michigan and Charleston Southern, a team from the AA division. Illinois gave up more than 30 points in eight of their ten loses, including three games where they gave up 50 points or more. For a man with a defensive pedigree like Beckman, that is unacceptable. We should look for better defense this year, or a new coach for Illinois the next.
indianaIndiana: Kevin Wilson
Indiana has never been known as a power house program. IU hit rock bottom in 2011, they took the mantle of “Most Losingest Team” in Football Bowl Subdivision history. That happened under Kevin Wilson’s watch. However, Wilson has been around to a few victories too. He was at Northwestern when they won the Big10 in 2000. He was on staff when Oklahoma won the Big12 and played against Urban Meyer’s Gators in the 2008 National Championship, but he also went 0-10 as a high school football coach earlier in his career. If there is one thing that Wilson can do, he can get offenses off the ground. Despite having recorded only five wins during his 2 years at Indiana, Wilson had the 19th ranked passing offense last year, despite loosing his starting quarterback to injury. If things go his way and his players stay healthy, he could have Indiana’s first winning season since 2007.
Ohio State BuckeyesOhio State: Urban Meyer
All this guy does is win, no matter what. In his eleven seasons as head coach, Meyere has two national championships, four conference titles, four conference divisional titles, and two undefeated seasons under his belt. During his two worst seasons, he still managed to win eight games. Meyer became head coach at OSU after two years of broadcasting and despite being ineligible for bowl games, he lead his team to a 12-0 record. Can you imagine a Notre Dame vs. Ohio State National Championship? I’m sure Urban Meyer can. If any team in the Big10 is going to challenge an SEC team for a National Championship, it will be Ohio State, lead by the former SEC champion Urban Meyer.
Penn State Nittany LionsPenn State: Bill O’Brien
Who chooses to leave Boston, Bill Belichick, and the football machine known as the Patriots to take over a tumultuous situation in Happy Valley? Bill O’Brien does. After coaching Tom Brady and coordinating offense for the evil genius of the NFL, maybe O’Brien wanted to start his own dynasty. Where better than to start on the heels of the largest scandal and tragedies to impact college football. With a legendary coach gone and a school’s honor dragged through the mud, Bill O’Brien saw Penn State as a place that could use hope. Despite being levied with a four year ban on postseason play and a free pass allowing players to transfer with no penalty, O’Brien put together an impressive season, winning eight games and Big10 Coach of the Year. After that showing, I have every reason to believe that Penn State will bounce back and be a Big10 contender after sanctions have cleared.
Purdue BoilermakersPurdue: Darrell Hazell
Darrell Hazell is begining his Big10 coaching career at Purdue this year. Hazell is MAC rising star who has arrived at the “big stage.” While coaching since 1986 at various position and coordinator positions, Hazell has only been in charge as head coach for two years at Kent State. Hazell improved the Golden Flashes from 5-7 to 11-3 by averaging 33 points a game. His explosive offense helped him win the MAC East division and 2012 MAC coach of the year, which is probably why Purdue decided Hazell had the goods. Will Hazell have the goods? Too early to tell, but the Boilermakers do have a storied program, if Hazell wants to stick around, He’d better produce some big offense quickly.
Wisconsin BadgersWisconsin: Gary Andersen
Gary Andersen replaces Brett Bielema as coach of the Wisconsin Badgers for the 2012 season. As a Spartan Fan, I love to hate on the Badgers because they’ve proven to be the biggest stumbling block to MSU’s Rose Bowl prospect these last few years. Personal pettiness aside, Andersen is poised to hit it big for Wisconsin. He spent 4 years at Utah State and won the WAC title in 2012, going 11-2. His only loses were to Wisconsin and BYU by a total of less than five points. He has been a defensive line coach since the early 90s before 3 years of being defensive coordinator at Utah, helping leading the Utes to a Mountain West title, an undefeated season, and BCS bowl victory in 2008. Andersen personally called each of his Utah State players to tell them he was leaving for Wisconsin. While that is uncommonly considerate, we’ll see how Badger fans feel about Andersen if he fails to make a bowl this year, which would be the first time the Badgers missed the postseason since 2001. Andersen is taking over a team built by a defensively minded coach which should make the transition easier, but Badger fans are going to want to see Andersen produce right away.